Tuesday, April 30, 2013

my response to "anonymous dad"

Dear Anonymous Man Behind This Blog Post:

Where do I even begin? It would be easy for me to get angry at you for giving infertility a bad rep, but I feel like this is too simple. Getting angry because you sought infertility treatment and then slapped everyone in the face who has ever wanted children and couldn't have them with your words is just an easy out for me. I could also be angry with you because you're a bad parent. You not only lament over the fact that your son is, in so many words, a whiner who still wakes up at night, you call him the "free one." That's lovely. Do you say this to his face? Then, there is the fact that you're a horrible future parent, as well. Wishing one of your sons would have a birth defect so that you could terminate? Getting upset because you will have three boys and no girls?

Honestly, I could go on for days about the obvious reasons that make me angry with your words, but I think what might make me most angry is your ego. You are, quite possibly, the most selfish person I've ever come across. I have never met you and I have no clue who you are, so this is saying a lot. How do I know you're selfish? For starters, you seem to put this on your wife. "Your wife" is pregnant. "Your wife" is expecting twins. It takes two to tango - even if it involves a specimen cup in between. You both made this decision together. You chose to spend the money and undergo IVF, even understanding that twins were a possibility. Your wife didn't do this alone.

You compare yourself to a cancer patient with months to live, when in fact you have a beautiful life ahead of you. As someone who has struggled with infertility, you of all people should know this. Infertility is what's supposed to feel like a death sentence - not being blessed with twins. No, parenting isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but it sure beats the hell out of wanting to become a parent and being unable to. Feel lucky, and understand that there are thousands of other couples who would kill to be in your shoes.

You imply that your health comes before your child's. It makes me question the reason you became a parent in the first place, if you are willing to put yourself before your own son. It makes me wonder what kind of environment these boys will grow up in, where their parents don't truly appreciate them and where their mom and dad have, in a sense, publicly stated that they aren't happy with parenthood. No wonder you chose not to publish your real name on the byline. You not only knew that you would catch hell for your words, but perhaps you didn't want your children to someday come to realize what kind of person you truly are: a coward.

And then there is this line: "Sure, in 10 years I could have close to a starting five of super-athletic, NBA-hopeful alpha males living under my roof smelling up the joint." Regardless of whether your boys grow up to be star athletes or construction workers, you should love and appreciate their existence just the same. Appreciate not only that you will have children when others can't, but that they are healthy when so many of us have children who deal with illness and disability. That the universe has given you lives to raise and put out into society (God help us).

So please, take a step back and reexamine yourself. This (life) is not all about you anymore. It's about your sons. Lock it up. Take responsibility. Accept the hand you were dealt. Then? Move forward. It's time to stop being the selfish little boy you portray your son to be and start being the man you are supposed to be.

Sincerely,
A Not-So-Anonymous Infertile and Mother

Friday, April 26, 2013

we are one

Mel re-posted one of her older blogs on Wednesday, titled the Infertility Manifesto. I wasn't following her back then, as I was barely out of college, just getting engaged, and had no idea I was even infertile. But her words ring just as true today. They are so passionate, so raw. They are perfect to share with anyone you know who may not understand what we go through. This paragraph, in particular, spoke to me:

"Infertility makes some women want to sweep it under the rug. It has made me want to be an activist – not only for infertility, but for all the taboo topics still out there. I talk about infertility a lot – not because I'm obsessed with the topic, but because it has shaped who I am and it is a large part of my life."

I've written before how people have asked me about my advocacy and whether it will change now that my journey is over, and I can't think of a better way to put it than Mel does in her post.

The answer is no, it will not change. It will never change. It will never stop. I will never stop. I don't do this because I love to hear myself talk (even though I can be a talker). I don't do this because I enjoy reliving these moments. I don't do this because I feel like I deserve something from it. Like infertility "owes me."

No. This isn't about me. This isn't about just one person's struggle. This isn't just one person's movement. I speak for all of us. I may not have gone through IVF, but I will stand up in front of my Congressional leaders next month and fight for the Family Act. I may not have lost a child, but I will bring awareness to those who've suffered infant loss. I may not be living child free, but I will make sure that those in this community who are living child free still feel included and welcome. They are important, too.

This is what this movement, our community is all about. It's not about our individual selves. It's about our collective group. We are separate people united together for one purpose, one cause. All of our voices are important. All of our stories are valid. All of us, through one action or another, help to change the conversation about our disease.

So as National Infertility Awareness Week comes to a close, give yourself a pat on the back. Do it because you posted a blog in honor of NIAW. Do it because you came out of the infertility closet on Facebook. Do it because you wrote your Congressmen. Do it because you are an advocate or a survivor. Or do it because you simply have the strength to keep moving forward. Do it because you don't bow down to this disease. Do it because you stand up to it.

Do it because you stand up for it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

life in the trenches

I've been sorting through files on my computer and in my emails, in preparation to merge computers. This is something we've wanted to do for a while now - have one computer at home - and it's now possible since Joey is done with school (more on this in an upcoming post). Having smart phones and an iPad help, too, as we rarely both need to be on the computer at the same time.

In my "spring cleaning" the other day, I came across this letter that I wrote to Joey back in 2009: the height of my frustration with our lack of success with infertility treatments. Reading this was difficult, but it was a reminder of how much we endured and how far we've come. In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to share aspects of this letter with all of you who are still fighting to become parents - to let you know that I've been there and I don't forget this pain:

I felt trapped yesterday. I often feel this way with baby conversations - like I have nowhere to go. I cannot relate to being pregnant and having a baby. I may never be able to relate, and the thought of this stings a little. It's become so that I feel I will never live up to certain standards or expectations as woman if we are unable to have children. Even as a couple, I feel like we will never be viewed at on the same level of completeness if we can't have kids. It's not the children themselves that bother me, it's everyone else and the way they speak about them. I hate how having a child is viewed as having completed the family. But are we not a complete family without a child? I like to think we are.

I think people believe that because we are now "open" about our struggles then we 1) are going to have a baby right away and 2) therefore want to hear about childbirth, cravings, and "when you have a baby..." This is not the case for me. I appreciate the support and optimism, but if this next IUI doesn't work, the odds of us never having kids will decrease dramatically - especially the odds of us having kids soon if we have to save for IVF or adoption. Our family is going to experience a huge let down. I am terrified of this happening. I beg God every day that this doesn't happen. That this, right now, is working and we have a child. Not because I don't want to let people down, but because I WANT to be a mom. I want sleepless nights and all of those things people complain about, and it's not easy to be told you can't have them.

I'm 24 years old. I'm supposed to be healthy, and fertile, and have lots of babies. But I can't do that. And sometimes that makes me feel hopeless and upset and I get emotional. I don't feel sorry for myself and I don't expect others to feel sorry for me, but I DO expect them to make an effort to be sensitive about the things that they say and do. It doesn't mean they can't talk about babies. It DOES mean that saying things like, "you don't want to be pregnant on vacation anyway!" hurt. Yes, I do want to be pregnant on vacation. I will be pregnant at the top of a mountain if it means that I'm finally pregnant. I'll take it. I know people don't understand that, but we can help them understand.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

how i joined the movement

I began blogging in this space nearly four and a half years ago, but at the time, I wasn't aware of my infertility. I started writing to document our struggle to build a family, but with the secret hope that it would turn into a "baby's progress" blog in the not-so-distant future. You know, one of those blogs with the weekly belly photos to keep your friends and family informed of how much your pant size is growing and what size fruit your baby is that particular week.

Instead, three months later, I sobbed in a doctor's office as I heard the word "infertile" for the very first time. I was 23 years old. I had gotten married less than a year earlier. I was supposed to be a fertile myrtle. Instead, I wasn't ovulating and my doctor wasn't sure I even could. HOW was this my life?

I arrived at the airport later that day for a previously scheduled flight back home to Orlando (we were living in Nashville at the time). I drank at the airport bar while I worked up the courage to call my mom. I thought, well . . . maybe I should wait until we have more tests done. See what the doctor says before I spill the beans to my family. Instead, when I heard her voice on the other end, it all came out. Word vomit. I was infertile. I might have cervical cancer. I babbled on and on while I paced the airport terminal, tears still in my eyes. I'm surprised airport security wasn't called. But I wasn't surprised that my mom was extremely supportive. I knew that I'd made the right decision by telling her.

The word vomit didn't stop there. It continued for weeks as we told family and close friends, detailing the tests and procedures we were experiencing in order to find out what exactly was going on. Not long after, we decided to move back to Orlando to be closer to everyone while we were going through this. Friends in Nashville were supportive, but there was nothing quite like being close to family during this type of crisis.

We moved home and I joined the local RESOLVE support. Though I was open with our family and friends about the doctor's visits and testing, I wasn't as open with them about my emotions. I was in my angry phase at the time, and I needed a safe place to release that anger. I found it with RESOLVE. Soon after, I began volunteering to lead the group - representing them at local conferences and helping to bring in guest speakers. I finally started to feel like a normal person again. Even though we were going through IUIs at the time, and they were failing miserably, I was channeling all of that emotion into something I could control.

While I blabbed away in "real life" about our struggles, I also continued to blab here - unbeknownst to my family and friends. Then, in the spring of 2010, I was named a finalist for RESOLVE's Hope Award for Best Blog. This was it: the moment of truth. Would I share my story - my ENTIRE story - with everyone I knew? It was a risk, I knew. This space contained so many of my innermost thoughts and feelings. But I did it anyway. I officially stepped out of the infertility closet, and I was okay with it.

I didn't win the award that year (I did the following), but what I did win was the battle for control within myself. This was the turning point for me. No longer did I feel as if infertility was in the driver's seat. Instead, I was. "Coming out" gave me an entirely new take on my life. I couldn't be that backseat driver anymore. I needed to take ownership of this disease: not only in my own life, but for others as well. Every step I took after that point further cemented my belief that this disease didn't have to be a death sentence. It wasn't the end of my womanhood.

In fact, it was the beginning. Being a part of this movement, for me, is liberating. It's no longer embarrassing for me to stand up and say, "I'm infertile." Instead, it's empowering. Because each time I do it, I think, "Maybe I'm encouraging one other person to speak out, too." And the more of us who speak out, the better. The more we accomplish. The more we change the perception of how outsiders view us. The more likely we are to get our government and healthcare leaders to make positive changes in laws and regulations rather than negative.

The more we grow as individuals, too. This might be the most important part of the movement. Realizing that we don't need to speak to crowds of people about our ovaries to make an impact. Knowing, instead, that every action - big and small - makes a difference not only for others, but for ourselves. We become better advocates for our own health. We become stronger. We become better versions of ourselves.

I officially joined the movement on June 15, 2010, and I am still a member today. I will always be a member - helping to move both myself and this community forward. And I encourage you to join, as well. Please visit RESOLVE's website to learn more about how we change the conversation about infertility.

Together, we can make a difference.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

great expectations

I had a few different posts planned (I actually blogged ahead, for once), but it doesn't seem right to post any of them in light of everything that's happened this week.

On Tuesday, my co-workers and I were talking about the bombings in Boston and trying to sort through our feelings about them. My boss brought up 9/11, and it got us thinking about life and these tragedies in a post-9/11 world. At just 7 years old, I was too young to remember the first World Trade Center bombing. I do vaguely remember the 1996 bombing in Oklahoma City. I think we were on vacation. I remember seeing a few images of it on the TV in the hotel lobby, but only briefly. My brother was young - hell, so was I - and I'm sure my parents didn't want either of us seeing those images.

9/11 was a much different story, as I was in high school. I think it was a different story for most of us. No one, aside from the WWII generation, had every experienced such a large attack on American soil. For the rest of us, this idea that so many lives could be gone in one instant and at the hands of another person was, quite honestly, surreal. These were things we'd seen on movies but never once thought about happening in real life. We'd heard about Pearl Harbor from our grandparents, but we had no first-hand knowledge of the devastating toll such an event could take - both on human life and our spirit.

That September morning changed many things, for all of us. It created a divide between a pre-9/11 and a post-9/11 world. I don't just mean the security measures in place. I also mean the emotions we feel in relation to national tragedies. 9/11 was so large and distant for many of us. At least for me, it was unbelievable. Watching it felt like watching a movie or listening to a story. It didn't feel real until I stood at Ground Zero a year later and saw the destruction where the towers once stood. Even then, it was difficult to imagine what happened that day playing out in front of me.

Since then, we've experienced a number of horrific events as a country. With each tragedy, my emotions feel more raw. One seems more real than the last. I'm not quite sure why this is, but I know that it has something to do with 9/11. I don't want to say that I expect bad things to happen now. But 9/11 made me aware that they can happen and that none of us are immune to them. Maybe it's because they are on a smaller level. They are events that happen within communities like my own instead of executed on a larger scale. Maybe it's a combination of the two or maybe it's a combination of dozens of things: my age, my maturity level, the evolution of news and social media. The list goes on.

Regardless of the reasons, before 9/11, it all seemed too unlikely and too unrealistic to imagine. Now, it feels like the violence is at our back door. The media splashes the images of the victims on TV and social media, making it impossible for it not to hit close to home - not to relate to these innocent faces. As someone who studied journalism, I understand the desire to want to report on the individual stories from these events. But as a human being, it's painful to see what is likely the worst day of these people's lives "on display" for the world to see. The image of the young man being wheeled away from the explosion with his legs missing from the knees down has haunted me every night - to the point where I spent hours searching for his name and status, and for a place where I could donate to his medical funds.

But this is not just about those victims pictured on TV. It's about the names we will never know and the faces we will never see. My heart aches for all of the individuals and families that have suffered this week from events across this country and for the first responders and medical personnel who've done such a tremendous job caring for them. I can't begin to comprehend how they feel, having been there and experienced it in person. For the rest of us only feel the pain of what we see and read through others. You - those who were there - have a much greater healing journey ahead of you.

I'd like to think that, someday, we will all make sense of these things. That we will begin to piece together why these events happen and how to stop them. Yet, the realistic part of me knows that's unlikely. I don't know that I believe in God's will anymore (infertility took a toll on my faith to the point where I don't know if it will ever recover), but it reminds me of this quote by C.S. Lewis:

"For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John."

It's not a matter of whether we have free will; instead, it's the manner in which we use it. There will always be people who use it for good, and there will always be people who use it for evil. And I think that may be the only solid conclusion we'll ever be able to draw in this post-9/11 world.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

why?

This is the question most of us are asking ourselves this morning.

We may never truly know why. We might eventually get a motive if the person(s) responsible for this made it out alive, but a motive doesn't answer "why?" because we can't begin to comprehend the reasons for a person wanting to take innocent lives - no matter what sort of agenda they hide behind. We know it's a useless question to ask, but we do it anyway. Especially now, when it seems that tragedies of this magnitude happen more frequently than not. We can't help it. It's in our nature to try and understand, even when we know we never will.

Events like this also make many of us - including me - question our faith in mankind. I spent a lot of yesterday doing that, but I soon realized that this is just as useless as asking why. Believing that most people are inherently evil gets us nowhere. Instead, it makes the people who are evil win. This is what they want: to divide us. To make evil normal instead of extraordinarily rare. To make us fear for the future, for our children.

Yet, the truth is, there are always going to be good people, and there are always going to be evil people. That's the way it's been and it's the way it will continue to be. I will never understand the evil, and I've decided that I cannot give in to them. So, what does that leave me to do?

I can be the best "good" person I can be. I can raise K to be one of the "goods," as well. I can run. I put my running on pause when K was born, and planned to restart in the next month or so - working toward my bucket list goal of completing a half marathon. But why continue to wait for the right time? It may never be the right time. I may never make it to that right time. So, I'll start now. I'll move forward.

We can all keep moving forward as best we can, doing our best to spread love instead of hate.

Monday, April 15, 2013

advocacy day

With three weeks to go before Advocacy Day is here, I'm getting excited about making the trip to DC. This is something I've wanted to do now for several years, and I finally have the opportunity. I'm looking forward to seeing so many of my friends - some I've met before, and others I'm meeting for the first time.

Just as exciting is the change to finally "put my money where my mouth is" (so to speak). I've been raising my voice about infertility for a long time - about four years. I have volunteered, spoken at events, written blog posts, put it out there on social media, and been interviewed by various media outlets. All have been empowering experiences for me, but I imagine that none will feel as empowering as this. I'm going to speak directly to the men and women who have influence on public policy.

We talk a lot about changing the conversation on infertility, and this is an opportunity to do this in a very real way. It's an important day for me, and it's an important day for our community. But I think it's also an important day for K, and she was the driving force that compelled me to register this year.

I've struggled with a number of health issues in the last decade or so: mental illness, breast health, reproductive issues. Each one has been a different battle, and while none of these ailments are "cured," I'm happy to say that I'm in a good place with each aspect of my health. It just took a lot of time, energy, and money to get to this point. It was fighting with insurance companies, doctors, other healthcare providers - all while trying to help outsiders understand what I was going through.

My worst fear is that, as a woman, K will endure some of these same battles. I can't save her from any health issues that she might have now or down the road. What I can do is make it easier for her to fight them. It's why I maintain awareness of mental health issues and donate to various causes and charities to fight breast cancer, and it's why I speak out about infertility. It's not only about what we've gone through as a couple or what all of us have experienced as a community. It's about making the path easier for future generations.

It's possible that K will never experience infertility. I certainly hope that she doesn't. But I think about 20 years from now and wonder, "Will she still be fighting for the same reproductive rights that I'm fighting for today?" Personhood bills, insurance coverage, birth control availability . . . it's all the same, and it's all scary. How will I feel if, in 20 years, my daughter and other like her are still trying to get the word "infertility" accepted as a disease by society?

I am only one voice, but I can speak for many - including my daughter. We all can. We can speak for more than just us and our experiences. We can speak for our future or our potential future. We can make it easier for those who take the path behind us.

There's still time to register, if you'd like to join me. But if you can't, please consider writing a letter to your Congressmen. Tell them that you want to make this better, not just for current members of our community, but for the future of our community. Tell them we will fight until we get what we deserve.

Tell them we will fight until ALL of our voices are heard.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

comfort in

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook yesterday, and I think it's brilliant. For those of you who don't feel like going to the article to read it (though you should - it's short, I promise), it's a theory on how not to say the wrong thing to someone. The person who created it did it in response what people said to her while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but the concept could be applied to any challenge you experience in life.

I started thinking about this in relationship to what all of us have gone through, or are currently going through, with communicating to others about our infertility. How many times have each of us struggled not only with sharing our experiences, but also with receiving negative responses? Too many to count, I'm sure. (In fact, I did a post a while back on the stupid things people say to us about infertility. I should do a Round 2 on this, as it's such a great way to vent about this frustrating aspect of infertility.)

So, wouldn't it be great if we could simply give these ignorant morons this guide for how to respond? Instead of trying to think of a clever response or dodging the comments altogether, we could try to enlighten them on how to comfort others - without necessarily engaging them in a five-hour conversation where we're trying to explain the depths of infertility. (Because we all know how trying that can be.)

Of course, this isn't just a phenomenon that occurs with people who don't understand our disease. Sometimes, ALI community members need assistance in knowing what to say, as well. Most of us are fairly considerate, but I've seen instances where women aren't as understanding as they should be toward the circumstances of others. Or we struggle to find the right words and all we end up spitting out are the wrong ones.

Regardless, this is the kind of thing I've often wished I had printed on a card to hand to others when they had some smart remark about our struggle to have kids. This way, instead of wanting to punch someone in the face for saying that we "must not be trying hard enough" or maybe I was one of those women "who just shouldn't be a mom," I could instill some empathy. It's a great lesson in teaching us that it's not always about us or what we think. Instead, it's about what the person at the center of the ring is struggling with.

Comfort in. Dump out. Perhaps this could be your response next time someone tells you to relax and open the wine.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

a message of hope

When I was going through infertility treatments, it was music that would often help me through the toughest of times.

I know several women who are going through some tough times in their own journeys toward motherhood at this moment. This song was always so uplifting for me, and I hope it will be for all of you, too. (I think the artists of this particular version make it especially filled with optimism.)

xo

Monday, April 8, 2013

the new/old me

Saturday was my birthday. I spent the last few years not feeling fond of this day because it only served as a reminder of another year older and another year without a child. I am trying to retrain myself to appreciate it - much like I've tried to do with every holiday and special day that's come up since K's birth. My birthday gift, of course, is K. I don't need any "things" to make this day important. But I'm trying to give myself another gift this year - something I've been ignoring for far too long.

Me. I want me back.

Not too long ago, I wrote about how I feel as if I'm in the midst of a healing process from everything we went through during our four years of struggling to have a child. I meant this in a mental and emotional sense. But I also find myself trying to heal in a physical sense. I know that I'll never be the same in any of these ways. I'll never be the person I was. I am different and I need to figure out who I am now and embrace that - outside of my skin, too.

I'm going in the right direction. Recently, I've done little things to try and boost my self-esteem in regard to the way I look. It's hard, though, when you spend so many years looking in the mirror and feeling awful about yourself. It's also hard when you are trying to embrace someone you didn't know before all of this happened (the person you've evolved into). Each small step I take - buying a cute outfit, cutting my hair - is a step toward a new me. Not a me who forgets what has happened. Not the old me. A changed me. A person who is still young, but who doesn't feel quite so youthful and naive anymore. A me who has had surgeries and hormones change her body in ways that simply won't "go back."

I know I'm not alone. I know I'm not the only person out there who struggles to reconcile the past with the present. But I wish more of us would talk about it - the physical and emotional struggles to reclaim our new/old selves after infertility. I wish it was easier to put into words, easier to understand. Instead, I think most of us navigate these murky waters alone.

***

It was a good day this year. Nothing special or exciting. K is getting over the flu (her second bout this season), so we took it easy most of the day. My in-laws came over and watched her in the evening, and Joey and I went out for dinner and drinks. I did my hair and make up, and I felt fabulous. My body, though, was still tired from all of my mommy duties and I crashed shortly after 10 pm. That's okay. I think I got the best of both worlds on my birthday. I helped K heal from the flu.

And I helped myself heal just a tiny bit more from the hell of infertility.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

9 months

This is a baby-related post. Please feel free to skip if you are not comfortable reading.

K turned 9 months old yesterday. Time is flying by way too fast. We almost have an entire year behind us!

Weight & Length: She went to the doctor today for her 9 month check up. She weighs 15 lbs. 7.5 oz. (5%) and is 26.85 inches long (20%). The pedi is happy with how she's eating and developing, despite the slower weight gain these last few months. She's just going to be a petite girl.

Sleeping: Between 8 months and now we had a huge turnaround in sleeping. K now sleeps about 10-12 hours a night. Most nights, she'll sleep straight through. Occasionally, she'll fuss once or twice, but usually giving her a pacifier and a few pats on the back will put her right back to sleep. Naps have also improved. She usually naps twice a day now, for at least an hour each time - sometimes longer when she's at daycare

Eating: She's taking 5 ounces each bottle and and averaging between 23 and 25 ounces a day. She also takes 8 tablespoons of oatmeal and two pouches of fruits and veggies (7 ounces) a day. We've also been experimenting with finger foods. So far, she hates meat, beans, and rice. But she loves avocado, bananas, Cheerios (sometimes), bread, cheese, and fruit puffs.

Clothing: We are exclusively in 9 month clothing now.

Personality: She is still as happy as ever. We say "yay" and clap a lot when she does something like finishes her food or stands on her own or pulls herself up, and she laughs and has sometimes started trying to clap along with us. She loves to cuddle and she's started to pucker her lips when you tell her you want a kiss. We started her at a new daycare earlier last month, and the first few days were a little hard on her. We could tell that she was having some stranger danger issues. But since then, it's been great. We can tell it's been a good change because she's been a lot more vocal when we get her home.

Milestones & Firsts: I predicted she would be crawling by 9 months, but K still won't go forward! She will go backward and around in circles to get places, yet she refuses to move forward. She does hold herself in a standing position well. I'm starting to wonder if she'll crawl at all, or if she'll just end up walking. It's hard to tell. I have remember that she's still not even 8 months old adjusted age. She got her third tooth yesterday on her 9 month "birthday." She also had her first St. Patty's Day and Easter in the last month, tried finger foods for the first time, and met the Easter Bunny. But the biggest milestone? We have our first word. It happened on Monday. She said "dada." :)